While three UCLA freshman, who returned to the U.S. this week after being detained in China on shoplifting charges, thanked President Donald Trump and the U.S. for helping secure their release, LaVar Ball shrugged off the president's efforts.
"Who?" Ball told ESPN when asked about the president's work in the incident. "What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out."
Ball's son, LiAngelo Ball, and fellow UCLA freshmen Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were detained by Chinese authorities on suspicion of shoplifting last week during UCLA's trip to the country to play its season opener against Georgia Tech. As the UCLA team returned to the U.S., the three freshmen remained in China, with some reports speculating they could be stuck there for months as their case was resolved.
President Trump, on a trip through Asia at the time of the players' arrests, said he asked Chinese president Xi Jinping for his assistance in the case during a visit to Beijing.
Hill and his two teammates returned to the U.S. on Tuesday, but UCLA has suspended all three players indefinitely.
"To President Trump and the entire United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf," Riley said when the players met with the media Tuesday.
Trump noted in a tweet this week that the players "were headed for 10 years in jail!"
Yet the elder Ball, who accompanied UCLA on the trip, downplayed the seriousness of the shoplifting charges.
"As long as my boy's back here, I'm fine," Ball told ESPN. "I'm happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, 'They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.'
"I'm from L.A. I've seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn't define him. Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that's a different thing."